An everlasting vigil at the T.O. hearing

The media stood watch for hours and hours, waiting for the slightest shred of news emanating from the NFL grievance hearing Friday between Terrell Owens and the Philadelphia Eagles at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott.Guess what? No news was forthcoming. But the media types did transform into mummified Pharaohs and/or icicles, their cheekbones jutting between hollow cheeks and hollow eyes. So we’re all holding our breath waiting for arbitrator Richard Bloch’s decision, which may take a few days. Try not to turn too blue.For some details, or the lack thereof, of more than 14 hours of testimony from Owens, a small parade of Eagles employees and a posse of pricey lawyers, check out today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

The metamorphosis of Michael Robinson

With Penn State on the brink of winning the Big Ten title tomorrow if it beats Michigan State — and who in their right mind even envisioned the enormity of that possibility a few months ago? — it’s obvious that first-year full-time QB Michael Robinson has been the lightning rod for such a sumptuous season.Since Joe Paterno refused to give MRob the keys to the kingdom until this season, preferring to play him essentially everywhere else but in the tuba section, his Penn State career hasn’t exactly been a bucolic journey.Dennis Dodd of CBSSportsline.com has a great piece today on Robinson, the chiseled block of a playmaker who as a quarterback has gone from swaddling clothes to a silk suit in a few short months. Check it out, all you Happy Valley zealots.

Listen to your doctor, Donovan. Have the sports hernia surgery now!

Sometimes the truth is inelastic, impossible to stretch.Donovan McNabb needs surgery now to repair his sports hernia.You know it.I know it.His doctor knows it.Indeed, Dr. William Meyers recommended that McNabb have surgery now to correct his sports hernia after an examination this morning.But does Donovan know it?The Eagles quarterback is considering his options.The five-time Pro Bowler will miss Sunday’s game against the Giants, but hasn’t made a decision beyond that.His options, according to a team source, appear somewhat limited: Undergo the surgery now, which almost certainly would end McNabb’s season, or delay it and hope that rest and treatment will permit him to return to the field in a week or two. The source emphasized a decision has not yet been made and offered no timetable for when the issue will be resolved.Again, the decision is a no-brainer. Why postpone the inevitable? Especially with the Eagles essentially eclipsed from the Super Bowl derby.McNabb can’t function as is. In his hobbled state, he no longer is an escape artist in the pocket. His swashbuckling playmaking skills have evaporated. A lack of torque has transformed his shotgun arm into a popgun. In short, the derring-do that once defined him is now derring-don’t. The Eagles’ top gun no longer has the same lethal fire banks in his arsenal.Get under the knife now, Donovan, and commence your comeback from hard times and exile.

One Big Mac for another: McMahon playing, McNabb sitting

Some things are rather obvious.For instance, when flossing a rhino, make sure you have a quick backpedal.For instance, Donovan McNabb won’t be playing quarterback against the New York Giants Sunday.For instance, Mike McMahon will be quarterbacking the Birds this week.Some things are not quite as obvious.For instance, McNabb may or may not be out for the season.McNabb’s Tuesday MRI on his aching big-time groin area will be reviewed by a specialist Thursday.McNabb said today he has decided to have surgery to repair his sports hernia and after talking to doctors and specialists, he will decide when to do it.Depending on his MRI results and his hobbled condition, the final curtain on his lost season just may have transpired when he tossed that infamous pick against Dallas Monday night to throw the team’s season into the dumpster. The smart thing would be for McNabb to have the surgery and heal up for next season. While playing hurt might be good for warriors, it’s bad for quarterbacks who need to get some torque into their throws.McNabb playing hurt the entire season was working about as well a Styrofoam hammer. His lack of mobility made him pure catnip to hungry pass rushers.But enough about McNabb for now. The NFL is about as sentimental as a right cross. Players get hurt all the time. They are disposable commodities. Now it’s McMahon’s time to be under center. The bad news about McMahon is that he couldn’t beat out Joey Harrington in Detroit. Harrington, by the way, has inspired considerable revulsion in the Motor City for his lamentable play.In four seasons with Detroit, McMahon started just seven games. And it wasn’t a Super Seven. He had a 43.8 completion percentage with 10 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. But he ran for 273 yards on 46 carries.The good news is that McMahon’s fleet feet give his game a pulse-racing dimension. He certainly doesn’t play with a restive soul. So the guy is no sitting duck in the pocket. And he does have a live arm.More bad news about McMahon is that his hyperkinetic style can be more stomach-churning than sitting in a barrel-rolling F/A-18 Hornet. So Eagles fans should be forewarned not to eat a lot of spicy foods during their pregame cocktail parties.Here’s hoping that McMahon exhibits enough composure on Sunday. If you notice the trainers performing the Heimlich manuever on him before the second quarter, look for a New York victory.And then listen to all the Eagles diehards growling in triplicate on WIP.

People magazine gives its props to pigskin prognosticators

Normally, People magazine’s annual Sexiest Man Alive cover story falls off my radar screen. After all, if they’re aren’t going to anoint me with that moniker even though I hardly deserve consideration, I’d rather study my pro football picks.But this year is different. Actor Matthew McConaughey is the 20th guy to be named People’s Sexiest Man Alive. And guess what one of his roles this year was?Yep, McConaughey portrayed Brandon Lang, a pro football handicapper working for the ranting Al Pacino in “Two for the Money” — a fictionalized account of the smothering pressures that grasp pigskin prognosticators around the throat every NFL weekend.I can relate to Brandon Lang, trust me.Granted, the plot had some surreal exaggerations and was chockfull of the usual creative licenses afforded to filmmakers, but I enjoyed the flick. Hell, McConaughey’s character could have been me up there on the silver screen.Anyway, I commend the editors of People for recognizing that pigskin pickers doesn’t necessarily have to look like swine. We do have a certain sex appeal when we peer into our crystal balls, don’t you think?Indeed, I’m feeling a tad sexy myself today. Jeez, if I had McConaughey’s hair and his chiseled six-pack, I could have been People’s choice.By the way, that raucous bellowing you just heard erupting all over Berks County is the sound of my lovely wife laughing her cute butt off.

Eagles cut Zeke

The Philadelphia Eagles released linebacker Zeke Moreno on Tuesday, a transaction that didn’t necessarily light up newsrooms or living rooms.Among the few who noticed, there was some speculation that Zeke got axed because he wasn’t all that special on special teams.”Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Eagles coach Andy Reid in an exclusive interview with yours truly. “We just realized that there couldn’t be two Zekes around here. There can be only one Zeke, and we all know that the real Zeke is Zeke Zielinski, the esteemed pigskin picker. Having Zeke Moreno around apparently was messing with our mojo.”Evidently so.And now I feel sort of bad that I’ve been a bit mean to Andy from time to time in this blog. So I’ll give him his props today. He sure knows his Zekes.

Groin injury likely to preclude McNabb from standing tall against the Giants

In what hardly could be construed as breaking news, Eagles coach Andy Reid said today that quarterback Donovan McNabb likely won’t play against the New York Giants Sunday.In all reality, Donovan has about as much chance of playing against the New Yorkers as does Paris Hilton. “I wouldn’t bet on it,” Reid said. “He doesn’t look good today.”Hell, McNabb didn’t look that good early this morning limping off the field with his groin screaming at him.The groin, by the way, was screaming at McNabb because of the block he took trying to tackle Dallas’ Roy Williams, not because of the game-blowing pick he threw to Williams in a mind-blowing and season-blowing 21-20 loss.Reid said McNabb had an MRI this morning, and was waiting to see a specialist. Of course, NFL players get to see specialists a lot quicker than you or I, so that shouldn’t take too long. In fact, it could be happening at this very instant.Mike McMahon, who filled in for McNabb late in the game against the Cowboys, likely would start Sunday.Reid, of course, didn’t say that was a certainty during his press conference today. Andy must be watching too many of those silly poker shows. Still, McMahon likely will get the nod over Koy Detmer, whose main talents these days seem restricted to holding for kicks.McNabb has been playing with a sports hernia all season, one that will require surgery. Reid said McNabb is “sore more in the groin area than in the abdominal area.”Whatever, the quarterback is a mess — physically and emotionally. The Red Cross soon may be setting up a disaster recovery site in front of his locker at the NovaCare complex. “You know how Donovan is wired,” Reid said. “He takes a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He was devastated by the loss and the injury.”As were all of us. My groin may not be growling, but my heart aches. Not to mention that McNabb cost me a ballgame in my “Can You Beat Zeke?” contest picks. With the Eagles’ season now essentially down the crapper, it’s perhaps time for them to let Donovan face the surgeon’s scalpel and get an early rehab start on next season. Comcast SportsNet should start its countdown to training camp at Lehigh very shortly.

Doomsday clocks the Eagles into oblivion

Well, I’d say the Eagles did a fairly credible job of damage control Monday night — for about 57 minutes.Unfortunately, NFL games are scheduled for 60 minutes. Philadelphia dominated dreaded Dallas for almost the entire game, leading 20-7 with a little more than three minutes remaining at the Linc in their NFC East do-or-die tussle.Then disaster struck. Then disbelief swallowed up an entire town.The Cowboys, bottled up offensively seemingly since the first quarter, struck for a touchdown on a 20-yard pass from Drew Bledsoe to Terry Glenn with 3:04 left to cut it to 20-14. It will take the Eagles’ cleaner-and-dryer-team considerable time to remove the scorched tire tracks from the back of cornerback Lito Sheppard’s uniform. By the way, it was Glenn’s very first catch of the night. An omen of bad karma was spilling like bad bile on the Eagles’ sideline. Meanwhile, white corpuscles were popping throughout the Eagle Green in the stands. But it still seemed improbable that the Cowboys would do something utterly dastardly. Improbable, maybe. Impossible, well, no. Dallas safety Roy Williams effectively ended Philadelphia’s season with a wicked shot to the solar plexus. Williams played the role of the hangman by intercepting a terrible Donovan McNabb pass on the ensuing possession and returning it 46 yards for a score in crushing the Eagles 21-20.”I’ve seen the Promised Land,” Williams said.Which gave the Eagles a hard glimpse at the dungeons of hell.Talk about a killer pick of lethal proportions. McNabb apparently never saw Williams. And McNabb apparently wasn’t on the same wavelength as rookie wideout Reggie Brown.Yes, you can crush a team by winning by a solitary point. Just ask the Eagles, who had their hearts picked out of their chests by Williams.The Cowboys somehow had stuffed 14 points into a surreal 21 seconds. Twenty-one seconds that will live in Eagles’ infamy. And with McNabb leveled by a block on the Williams pick and rendered extremely gimpy with a groaning groin, the poison of a lost season is gushing through the Delaware Valley. The Birds’ immediate future is saturated with large fingers of doubt. The Eagles have crossed the brink. They have morphed into yesterday’s heroes. The Birds no longer can thumb their noses at the very thought of traveling backwards in time to a distant past when history repeatedly rose up to clobber them. Their astounding run of NFC East dominance is over.But it need not have been. Desperate teams, like cornered animals, often are at their most dangerous. And while the Eagles seemed to have the game in hand, they failed to bring the hammer down on the Boys. Too many sloppy mistakes ultimately cost them dearly.Now you can haul a metal grate across the storefront of their season and padlock it. The Birds’ playoff chances are no longer open for business.Which is a crying shame. Because for much of the night, the Eagles looked like they were about to rebound and right their season. For starters, Philadelphia was much more erudite on offense. With no Terrell Owens to throw to, Andy Reid seemed to be nailing Bill Parcells to a blackboard. The Eagles decided to run the ball instead of being pass drunk.Until Monday night, the Eagles had spent most of their offensive time trying to make plays exclusively in the sky. With T.O. banished, the Eagles somewhat grounded the air force and brought the infantry out of mothballs.The dramatic shift in philosophy in the first post-T.O. game in the Eagles era was strikingly apparent. And obvious. No chicken-or-egg conundrum here. The Birds actually ran for more yards than they passed for, 181-178. The subsequent downward spiral of their passing attack was significant.Indeed, Eagles wideouts had just seven catches — three by Brown, three by Greg Lewis and one by Billy McMullen. Eagles receivers simply dropped too many damn passes. You could hear T.O. cackling all the way from his Atlanta home.Brown had at least five drops, including one on the Eagles’ final possession that would have given them a first down at the Cowboys 20 — well within David Akers’ field goal range. Brown evidently never will get a job with the Good Hands People who sell insurance. As it turned out, Akers’ 60-yard attempt at the end of the game was merely a futile, stab in the dark.Meanwhile, Brian Westbrook rushed 16 times for 86 yards and a 15-yard touchdown, Lamar Gordon ran 13 times for 57 yards, and McNabb — astonishingly frisky for a guy with sports hernia — scampered five times for 22 yards and a 2-yard TD. In fact, Donovan — until getting hurt on the late pick — was quite spontaneous and sprightly without having T.O. on his back. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ defense was quite up to smothering the Cowboys … until the late TD toss to Glenn. Trent Cole had two sacks as the Birds mounted enough pass pressure to put some steel in the spine of their secondary. And Jeremiah Trotter’s 10 solo tackles were instrumental in clamping down the Dallas running game.But so what? The Eagles blew the game. And their season.Now we all must wade through the devastation left in the wake of this nightmare. It’s much too late for the fans to fan the flickering flames.Suddenly all the T.O. punk funk junk seems so trivial.

Helping pick the Smoke’n Hot Steam Team sure beats picking football games

My eyeballs usually spend NFL Sundays glued to multiple TV screens and to my computer screen, tracking and lamenting how my pigskin picks are faring in “Can You Beat Zeke?” land.But my eyeballs had a much better treat late Sunday afternoon at Center Court in the Berkshire Mall. It was, truth to be told, worth missing some of the 4 p.m. NFL games. I had the enviable task of being one of the judges to select the Smoke’n Hot Steam Team. The aptly named cheerleading squad will be inspiring the Reading Express of the American Indoor Football League when they tackle their maiden season starting Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Sovereign Center.My fellow judges and I had to wrap ourselves into a cocoon of concentration as we passed judgment on the 23 semi-finalists.When all was said and done, the field was narrowed down to 12 lovely ladies who undoubtedly will be attracting plenty of admiration at Express games.Needless to say, I was so intent and focused that I’m sure the contestants could feel the snap of my gaze. I was so immersed in my judging duties that I didn’t even have the slightest inkling to be voyeuristic. I am, above all else, a professional.All the contestants reached into deep stores of energy as they performed their hyperkinetic routines. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the sight of all those girls gyrating was a whole lot easier on the eyes than, say, reading the fine print in a term insurance policy.Indeed, the entire experience was exhilarating. Alas, it was rather ephemeral as well. But I won’t be certain until I look the word up.

USC's Matt Leinart isn't bold and brassy, just the best

With Penn State having a bye Saturday, my wife didn’t want me to have a bye as regards raking leaves.Well, I told the good woman that while I relished the opportunity to grab rake in hand and remove the bright fall foliage that has been camouflaging our sun-toasted lawn, I had to take a pass.My blogging duties and my faithful browsers always come first.And what I needed to do Saturday afternoon was once again watch and marvel at the splendid talents of USC quarterback Matt Leinart, the defending Heisman Trophy winner.The Trojans whipped Cal 35-10 and once again Leinart demonstrated that while he may not be the most spectacular player in the land, he’s still the best.In fact, he’s better than he was last year. He throws better, he runs better and he thinks better. In fact, Leinart seems to have a mystical instinct that enables him to do the absolutely right thing at the right time.Leinart’s anticipation is astounding. He thinks on another level on the field; he’s one step ahead, constantly aware of all those around him, more like a chess master than a football player.But will he repeat his Heisman Trophy win? Probably not. Why? Because the advance billing of a defending Heisman winner is an intolerable burden. Critics pick at each and every crevice in his game. They extrapolate each and every minor flaw until every weakness seemingly is as big as all outdoors. Some resent it that Leinart didn’t jump to the NFL after his junior season, as if his only reason for returning to USC was a chance to further burnish his suntan and ego. Never mind that the kid has the chance to gain the immortality that only comes with winning three consecutive national championships.Some have pushed Leinart into the recesses of their mind, preferring to be mesmerized by all the highlight reels that Texas QB Vince Young and USC tailback Reggie Bush are unspooling before their very eyes. Oh well. Compared to Young and Bush, Leinart may run with all the grace of a man being gunned down from behind. But he does make plays with his feet. And more importantly, with his arm. His legacy of winning at USC is so astonishing it seems fictional.But it is not.At least I’m not the only media type who thinks it’s a shame that Leinart doesn’t sit at the center of the Heisman vortex of hoopla. Wayne Drehs of espn.com has a great piece detailing Leinart’s attributes that deserve a Heisman encore. Check it out.And then tell me why in hell a great player like Leinart, playing in Hollywood’s backyard, seems sentenced to sit alone in his cubicle at the end of the college football world.